By definition, a Kahuna is an expert. There were (and still are) Kahuna for navigation, fishing, building, healing, woodworking, war, and just about anything else you can imagine. They are intimately familiar with their chosen trade. For example, the hunter Kahuna finds their prey by connecting with the animal's spirit and asking the quarry’s help in the survival of the Kahuna’s people. Navigator Kahuna spend years watching the stars, currents, weather – and learning techniques for shipbuilding in order to give the greatest probability of a successful open-ocean journey. They also merge with the spirit of the atmosphere prior to the voyage to ask for assistance. There are over 40 different specialties to be found among the Kahuna including Kauka ha’iha’I iwi (bone setter), Lomi lomi (massage expert) and Kilo kilo (reader of the skies and omens.)
In olden days, becoming a Kahuna was a long and arduous task. Normally, an apprentice would be recognized by a Kahuna and brought to live with the Kahuna learning through observation and asking the right questions at the right time. The act of studying did not guarantee that the apprentice would become a recognized Kahuna. Like with shaman, a Kahuna is recognized by the community as an expert, not self-proclaimed. In addition to community acceptance, there could be other required ceremonies prior to the apprentice becoming a kahuna. One such ceremony included the passing of knowledge to the apprentice at the deathbed of the sitting Kahuna. When the sitting Kahuna was about to die, a trusted pupil would be called to the Kahuna’s side to receive the dying Kahuna’s knowledge. This was done by breathing the knowledge into the mouth of the student with the Kahuna’s last breath. With this dying breath, this pupil would be acknowledged as the new Kahuna.
Much of the direct knowledge of how Kahuna accomplished their connection with the spirit worlds has been lost. However from what we do know about the Kahuna, we can make correlations to basic shamanic philosophies and practices worldwide.
Shamanic practices have been observed in all cultures, in every era. Shamans utilize a close relationship with nature to facilitate their abilities of prophecy and healing. Like in the Hawaiian belief system, shamans also understand that there can be negative connections that need to be healed. They recognize that, deep down, these are the roots of many modern aliments, not bacteria or viruses.
Many shamanic practitioners hold common beliefs about worlds or realities. The practitioners observed that ordinary reality is the world in which we live. It is the physical reality of our five senses. It is the world that we describe through our chemistry, physics, and conscious thoughts. In this reality, there is separateness: a beginning and an end; a cause and an effect.
Non-ordinary reality is the world of spirit. It is the world of dreams, spirits, and intuition. It is where all things are conscious. It is the place of “no time” where the past, present, and future all exist at once and are accessible simultaneously. It is the place where thoughts, feelings, and emotions create our physical reality and is the spirit mirror of our ordinary reality. In this place, all is connected and related. It is a place of symbolism. The shaman journeys to non-ordinary reality to access the information contained therein. He then uses this data to help facilitate healing in ordinary reality, using a variety of methods, rituals, or ceremonies (including Ho’oponopono.)
In shamanic and Kahuna beliefs, non-ordinary reality is commonly viewed as three distinct areas or worlds: lower, middle, and upper.
The lower world is the realm of animal spirits, nature, and earth energies. In the lower world, one can ground energies and influence the state of the physical body that is controlled and nurtured by what the Hawaiians call the ku. In journeys to this world, the shaman can find information to help with survival, sexual, and balance issues. It is the place where you can find safety. It is the realm of fairies, brownies, sprites, animal helpers, elves, and devas. Here, the hunting shaman would connect with the spirit of his prey and ask permission to take the animal’s life, honor it, and thank it for its gifts.
In the physical body, the ku is the lower-self that is concerned with physical body, memory and survival. It does not “think.” It cannot lie. The ku is also the gatekeeper to non-ordinary reality and has a direct connection to what the Hawaiians call the aumakua or oversoul.
The middle world is the domain of compassion. It is the place of rest for the soul. In the middle world, the shaman connects with the spirits of departed loved ones, souls, beings, spirits, and guides. It is where the mind, or lono as the Hawaiians call it, influences thoughts, feelings, and emotions - and directs the ku or the physical. When a shaman does distance healing, the middle world is usually the starting point.
The middle-self is the lono. It is the mind that analyzes, guides the ku and gives instructions. As the analyzer, it sometimes gets in the way by over-analyzing situations and not trusting the information it is given from the ku either from memory or the ku's connection to the aumakua. The middle-self provides a home for the ego.
The upper world is the home of one’s aumakua. This world is the mother of intuition and influencer of the mental functions. It is the guide of our actions that has the benefit of knowing all things. However, it does not speak in plain language. It speaks in metaphor and symbols that the shaman must interpret and place in context in order to use the information. This is where the shaman travels to past and future realms to gain knowledge.
The aumakua is the upper self. As described above, the aumakua is the mother of intuition and influencer of the mental functions. Mental functions feed information to the lono from the aumakua via the ku. The aumakua feeds the ku with intuitive memories. Almost every person can recall an example of this communication. Do you remember a time that you knew information but could not recall how or why? This was the aumakua providing you with the data you needed at that time. The aumakua is the guide of our actions that has the benefit of knowing all things.
Although viewed as distinct worlds, these areas often blend. This allowed a Kahuna who was conducting a ceremony to connect to (and between) the spirit and physical worlds. This offered a better understanding of how the healing could take place.
About the Author
Mark Allen Perkins has trained extensively in both Japanese Aikido and Hawaiian shamanism. He currently lives in Boulder where he conducts healing ceremonies and seminars with individuals, families, and corporations. For more information about his life and healing work, see his recent book My Journey back to Oneness (2006) which is available through the Huna Ohana Store.